Media | Local News

Labor’s secret 38% cut to Rural Firies exposed

24th August 2020

The LNP is demanding the Palaszczuk Labor Government reverse its disgraceful decision to rip another $7m from the budget of Queensland’s Rural Fire Brigades.

The shocking funding cut means Labor will have slashed spending on rural firies by $20m in just two years – from $52m in 2018-19 to just $32m this financial year (a 38% cut).

The Rural Fire Brigade Association of Queensland (RFBAQ) has been notified of the funding cut, but Labor has made no public announcement (see link below).

LNP Shadow Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Lachlan Millar said Labor was using its decision to cancel the State Budget to impose spending cuts by stealth.

“This is a devastating and demoralising blow to our rural firies just as the bushfire season is beginning,” Mr Millar said.

“To cut $20 million from our volunteers brigades is reckless beyond belief.

“Just a year ago these men and women were on the frontline of a horrific bushfire season – and they were giving their all for nothing.

“This is a kick in the guts for those brave firies and Labor should hang their heads in shame.

“These cuts means less money for training, less money for fire trucks and less money for equipment. No wonder volunteers are walking away from our rural brigades.”

Mr Millar said the heartless funding cuts came after the Palaszczuk Labor Government failed to meet its annual hazard reduction targets in the lead-up to the horror 2019-20 bushfire season.

The Palaszczuk Labor Government completed only 54 per cent of planned burns between 2016-19.

Queensland also saw a 40 per cent decrease in the number of fire breaks being built, as well as a 45 per cent reduction in bushfire community education.

“All this is on top of the botched blue card fiasco, which resulted in Labor sending 4,700 termination letters to rural firies threatening their termination,” Mr Millar said.

“The ongoing saga as resulted in thousands of rural fire brigade volunteers choosing to leave in disgust at how the process was handled.”

In contrast to Labor’s cuts and confusion, the LNP has announced a 10-point bushfire mitigation plan, which includes restoring local control to rural fire brigades as well as establishing a dedicated Rural Fire Board.

“A Deb Frecklington LNP Government will treat rural firies with the respect they deserve and provide them with the equipment they need to keep our communities safe,” Mr Millar said.

Queensland’s 1,400 rural fire brigades comprise more than 33,000 volunteers and cover 93 per cent of the state.

NB: The Rural Fire Brigade Association Queensland’s reaction to the cuts is online at: https://www.facebook.com/Ruralfirebrigadeassociationqueensland/posts/909716359518242

The LNP’s 10-point bushfire mitigation plan

  • One-stop-shop for streamlined approval process: The LNP will establish a single point of contact for all landholders (local, state and federal) to answer and enable bushfire mitigation inquiries, as recommended by the 2018 IGEM report.
  • Deemed approval after 15 business days under a "right to burn" model: Properly made applications will be automatically approved after 15 business days to give landholders and councils certainty. This will stop permits getting lost in bureaucratic process and restore accountability and bring certainty to landholders and allow government to scale up or down resources to respond to demands for permits.
  • New KPIs to achieve 98 per cent of hazard reduction activities: There are currently no KPIs holding government departments to account on hazard reduction burns, the creation of firebreaks and community education. Between 2016 and 2019, Only 54% of hazard reduction burns planned have been completed. There’s also been a 30 per cent reduction in completed overall hazard reduction activities.
  • Indigenous rangers to undertake traditional burning: The LNP will trial a traditional burning program run by indigenous rangers. The program won’t replace Rural Fire Brigades’ role in managing and coordinating hazard reduction burns. It will compliment pre-existing efforts by combining traditional and modern burning practices. Blending cultural and modern burning techniques has proven successful and should be expanded. 
  • Establish a Natural Disaster Cabinet Committee to monitor preparations: The group will be chaired by the Emergency Services Minister and QFES Commissioner. It will monitor the progress of state departments and landholders conducting hazard reduction activities.
  • Monitored grazing in state forests, some national parks to manage fuel loads: The 2018 IGEM report cited grazing as a measure used in conjunction with a suite of hazardreduction measures. Grazing will be monitored to protect the environment but also managefuel loads.
  • Establish metropolitan-based Rural Fire Volunteer brigades: Just like in Sydney and Melbourne where brigades exist that are operated by volunteer firefighters that can be called on during extreme bushfire events to surge capacity, a similar model should be investigated in Queensland to make use of the large number of SEQ based volunteers.
  • Restore local control to Rural Fire brigades: This will restore recent management structure changes that pushed local fire brigades under the reporting authority of regional urban fire groups.
  • Establish a Rural Fire Board: The Rural Fire Board will be made up of respected rural fire brigade members from across Queensland as well as members appointed by the Government. Future policy direction or matters that affect brigades and volunteers would need to be accepted or made workable by this representative board.
  • Review of aerial firefighting capability: A review and stock take of aviation fire assets in Queensland to ensure the state’s capacity will accommodate future increased fire risks.